Cast: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Liv Tyler, Ruth Negga, and Donald Sutherland
Director: James Gray
Writers: James Gray and Ethan Gross
Runtime: 123 Minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for Some Violence and Bloody Images, and for Brief Strong Language
Adventures in space are always the best form of entertainment, as long as you know it can be dangerous up there. Ad Astra is the latest to tell a story about that. But to help out what to possibly expect from this, it’s probably best to think of this as half Gravity, half Interstellar. If you like/love either of them, then you have nothing to worry about when it’s over.
What’s the Story: Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his famous astronaut father Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet. His journey will uncover secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and our place in the cosmos.
I was definitely looking forward to Ad Astra is one of those films that I’ve heard about for a while now, and many are wondering if this had some Oscar potential just from last year. I’m the kind of person who’s always intriguing with an original movie with space as the main setting, and the multiple trailers had me hooked instantly. Director and co-writer James Gray (The Lost City of Z, We Own the Night) explores the wonders of the galaxy with fairly enjoyable.
Who would’ve thought Pitt could give two great performances this year alone with his Oscar-worthy role in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and now in Ad Astra? His performance calls for his character of Roy to be calm and almost say very little, kind of like Ryan Gosling’s portrayal of Neil Armstrong in First Man. There were certain points where Pitt made the character his own. It relies on voiceover from him quite frequently throughout, but it didn’t bother me that much as I thought it was interesting enough to care for Pitt.
Going into the technical aspect of the film, it succeeded in all departments. Gray’s direction shows that even filmmakers that haven’t made anything this large before can handle it well and feeling like it didn’t take a lot to make it personal while being influenced by other sci-fi classics. Anytime a movie is set in outer space, you just know that’s going to look spectacular, and it does. All of the visual effects, along with the production design and the brilliant cinematography from one of my other favorites Hoyte van Hoytema, are beyond astounding. Also, Max Richter’s score doesn’t become overpowering with each scene and is used to perfection.
But the most important thing to remember about the film is to know that it’s a slow burn. Some would assume it won’t be from the marketing, but just know that there are sequences of dialogue between characters and scenes where it focuses on the visual style of space. I expected that going in and didn’t think anything else. Still, I found myself a bit tired after a while. Even when the film calls for an action scene, it stands out as thrilling. Did they need to be in here? Probably not, but I guess needed something cool that isn’t people talking.
The rest of the supporting cast was good. Although this is supposed to center on Pitt and Lee Jones when he shows up later on, the likes of Liv Tyler, Ruth Negga, and Donald Sutherland were wasted.
Gray and co-writer Ethan Gross go for that philosophical kind of story that’s meant for those to travel deep inside their minds to understand the meaning about life and our purpose for everything we stand for. But at its core is this story about this man looking for his dad. Probably wasn’t something that I got while sitting for those two hours on first viewing, but some will be attached to the story no matter what.
Ad Astra isn’t intended for everyone if I have to be honest. Just like Interstellar, maybe it could lead to people being, somewhat, divisive over it. But since it’s slow and the story can be a bit hard to follow because of that, Frey’s tackle of space still ends being a pretty solid space drama while providing a great performance from Pitt. Not great, but I’m willing to give it a re-watch by the end of the year to see if my opinion changes and to understand it more.